It’s a topic I get asked about often: living with food sensitivities and allergies in Dakar. Unfortunately they aren’t questions I’m able to answer well. So a very big thank you to Leslie who has taken the time to fill us in on what she’s learned since arriving here! Please add any other info to share below!
I have an almost 4 year old who is allergic to casein and eggs, so I fully understand about a mummy’s worries when looking for suitable alternatives.
Dakar does have dairy alternatives or dairy-free food for most items, you just need to figure out where to look and be willing to pay a lot of money. Low quality soy milk (from Thailand and with lots of sugar) will cost you about $3 or $4. If you want almond, oat or rice milk you might have to pay as much as $7. Crazy I know. There is a small shop (Dior Diarama) that also carries a number of American brands (i.e. Silk).
I decided to go the ‘make-your-own’ route and bought a Vitamix blender before I arrived. I buy one-kilo bags of almonds and that last me about a month. Right now I am buying my almonds at Hypermarché, one of the big supermarkets here, but I am on the lookout for somewhere to buy them in bulk.
Without a proper health food store, there are limited dairy-free alternatives for pasta, cookies, cereals, etc. I read the labels religiously, but only really have faith in the labels of companies from Europe and North America.
As my daughter is also allergic to eggs, this complicates matters. There are a couple of brands that cater to specialty diets, but most of the focus is on high fibre, gluten-free or low-cal. One brand sells vanilla and chocolate cookies labeled dairy-free for about $4 (if I remember correctly) and normally the super market chain Casino had soy yogurt (almost $10 for 4 pots) and custard. Again I bought a yogurt maker and am still working on perfecting my coconut yogurt making skills.
One thing I am worried about is the bread in Dakar. Since I mostly buy bread from the bakery, I am not always convinced that the artisan loafs are milk and egg free. I always ask, but we had a few breakouts when we bought pain complete and artisan baguettes. I have settled on buying a processed wholemeal brand at Casino, but even it says it was produced in a factory with dairy and eggs. So far no problems, but the loaf costs $4 and that is the cheapest brand. Others cost upwards of $10.
For me, getting used to the French way of shopping (ie. visiting several stores to complete your weekly groceries) was hard. I am still trying to find where to get vitamins and minerals for my wee one that are casein/dairy and egg free. As I mentioned before, there really isn’t a one-stop shop to get everything.
One the positive side, not having all the ready-made products has forced me to cook more conscientiously, normally using vegan recipes and then adding some meat. 🙂 However, that does not placate my daughter when she passed yet another ice cream parlour or when she wants some chocolate with her friends. I have learnt that the occasional treat doesn’t do much harm… it is the hidden daily dairy that sets off the hives, rashes and inflammation!
Thanks again, Leslie! Dakar Eats readers – if you have any suggestions or tips to share, please do! Also if anyone has tackled eating gluten-free in Dakar, we’d love to hear from you.